Silver City is a quiet town of about 10,000 residents in southwest New Mexico. Today I want to tell you about one of those residents: Ora Rede, my stepmother.
Civic boosters would describe Silver City as a “gem” with forest recreation,
a vibrant historic downtown, art community, and dozens of festivals and events. That’s fair, but I also know it as a culturally conservative place where Latinos make up 52 percent of the population, the median household income is about $26,000, and one in five residents lives in poverty.
It’s also a long way from any sizable city — 200 miles or more from Tucson and Albuquerque and 150 miles from El Paso.
Considering its geographic isolation and demographics, there’s ample opportunity for community volunteers to lend a helping hand. And that’s where Ora comes in.
The Silver City Daily Press and Independent recently published a story with this headline:
“Rede selected LULAC 2019 Woman of the Year.”
The story reported that my stepmother was selected as the local, district and state Woman of the Year by the League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States with a mission of advocating for advancement in education, civil rights, health, and employment for the Hispanic community.
“Her dediciation, hard work and desire to help the community were exemplified by her involvement in several community organizations, including LULAC, the library board, and the Literacy Link-Leamos program, and working with veterans and widows of veterans through American Legion Post 18,” the newspaper said.
“Her service also included volunteering for the after-school food program and the St. Francis Food Pantry.”
In addition, “She tutors Spanish and enthusiastically teaches others about the culture. She is fluent in Spanish and has served as a translator of many community events where needed.”
I happen to know that her “students” include a couple of parish priests, one a native Spanish speaker who wants to improve his English, and the other an English speaker who wants to improve his Spanish. I also recall seeing her in action during one visit, when she pitched in to help prepare and serve enchiladas for a community fundraiser.
On top of all this, the Daily Press and Independent noted that a scholarship in the name of Ora and my late father, Catarino, was awarded to a high school student to attend the local college, Western New Mexico University, and major in nursing.
That’s fitting because Ora was a registered nurse before she retired. She and my dad met in Oakland, California, when she was working in the emergency room and he was a stationary engineer, responsible for maintaining the hospital’s boilers, air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment.
In retirement, they volunteered in their adopted hometown, regularly attended church and community events, and even traveled internationally,
When my dad passed away in 2 1/2 years ago at age 91, he had been married to Ora for 46 years.
“Marrying Oralia was the best thing that ever happened to him,” I wrote then. “It was as if my dad (had been) born again, given an opportunity to live life to its fullest alongside an affectionate and dedicated wife who fully embraced his adult children and cared for him to the very end.”
I’m very happy, but not a bit surprised, by the public recognition given to Ora’s volunteer efforts. She is a genuinely kind and gracious individual who has endeared herself to Lori and me — and everyone in our extended family — through the love, care and concern she expesses in word and deed.
Oralia Caballero Rede, at age 85, is many things. She is humble, deeply religious, and fiercely proud of her Mexican heritage, growing up in San Antonio, Texas. She is adventurous, having once ridden a zip line on a trip to Costa Rica. And she is caring, recently traveling to Honduras to help deliver medical and dental services as part of a humanitarian team.
We are so very proud of Ora — and I know my dad would be proud of his Lala, too.